Acceptance speech – Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP)

We are delighted that our conviction that a people's culture is an essential mobilising tool for development has received this International recognition.

Distinguished guests,
Honorable Members of Parliament,
ladies and gentlemen.

The news announced in Stockholm on 6th October, reached us through the media on 7th October. This announcement was given prominent coverage in our local newspapers in Bulawayo. For ORAP to be one of the four recipients of the Right Livelihood Award was the happiest day of my professional life. Winning this award is a reflection of the quality of people I work with and the Communities we serve. It is an honour not only for me personally but also for all the women of Zimbabwe, particularly the rural women who have taught me to be wise and patient but above all to be a strategist.

We are delighted that our conviction that a people’s culture is an essential mobilising tool for development has received this International recognition. Indeed for us, this is the rootedness, the culturally appropriate path to development. We have pursued it for the last 12 years. This approach gives authenticity and power to the people. As major experts in their own culture, people thus take control of their development theory and practice.

Today we note with a particular sense of pride and satisfaction that through being truly African in our development approach and thinking, ORAP was chosen for this award. We consider this to be an honour to the whole African Continent. ORAP and myself raised the Zimbabwean Flag and that of Africa to the height of International recognition.

I want to take this opportunity therefore to extend my gross thanks to the Right Livelihood Award Foundation Committee who not only have honoured me today but have recognised African rural people’s talents and gifts which have over the years been buried with their culture in the rubbles of externally driven development. Rural people work the hardest of all people on earth, yet they are often the least recognised, and ORAP has “worked hard to disseminate the experience of these people internationally”. We thank you for this recognition. What remains now is for us to achieve sustainability. The prize money of USD 50.000 will go towards making our development sustainable. At this stage I would like to challenge, persuade, encourage and stimulate well wishers to follow your foot-steps and support such efforts. Rural people’s efforts would not have come such a long way without the support of our faithful donor partners whom I am sure are proud to be part of this special ceremony.

ORAP has had resounding achievements not only in motivating communities but also in concrete and tangible results.

We have provided water for irrigation and domestic use to a quarter of a million people. Food production and distribution has improved by 80%. Most families now have access to food. Most farmers have gone back to traditional and organic farming methods which are environmentally friendly. Traditional seeds continue to be developed. Most farmers now grow small grains which are drought resistant and more nutritious.

During the 1991-1992 drought – which was the worst in living memory, families managed to live out of the previous year’s harvest of these grains before food aid moved in. Through our well developed rural networks we were able to feed nearly 2 million people reaching the remotest parts of Matabeleland North, South and Midlands. These efforts prevented loss of lives. During this time we also launched drought recovery programmes – improved granaries and dam constructions.

Using traditional architecture and designs families have improved their homes. Rural kitchens constructed mainly by women as the main family gathering place, are cleaner, larger and better ventilated. Family shelter has generally improved. All these efforts have improved child mortality, family nutrition and general health.

Family groups put their major servings together to facilitate the education of their children and to meet basic needs. This has helped rural families educate more of their children than was possible before.

A Rural Secondary school whose curriculum will include grassroots development will be opened in January 1994. The idea is to have a school which will help rural children relate better to their environment and thus take interest in the development of their areas than leave for the cities.

Each ORAP association has a village development centre, which people are developing as their local institution through which they can express and develop their social, political and economic needs. Short practical courses in agriculture, mother-child-development, building, carpentry etc., are run at this level. Such centres are also used by Government and other local organisations. They are becoming centres for co-ordinating local efforts by the people themselves.

A study has just been done to develop more viable small village enterprises. In the past, village Income Generating Activities which have been done without feasibility studies, training and adequate assistance have failed. ORAP hopes to use most of its award money to finance viable economic projects at this level. Besides these small village based economic activities, ORAP runs larger economic ventures to help finance its work. In addition to the financial  benefits, these businesses provide 60 jobs for village youth, and act as training ground for the village groups who intend to start small enterprises.

Once again, I would like to thank the Right Livelihood Award Foundation for this award. Rest assured that you have fuelled our motivation as a people. The greatest of our development visions, plans and achievements are yet to come, particularly as we move forward knowing that we have friends in all of you who have made this possible.

Thank you.

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